The Hillsboro girls proved the adage that defense wins championships Friday, claiming the title at the Moundridge Preseason Tournament with a low-scoring, hard-fought 35-23 win over the home team.
The Trojans managed only 12 points in the first half, but that was more than enough as they limited Mound?ridge to only one?a free throw by Renae Stucky 42 seconds before halftime.
Stephanie Sanders scored four of Hillsboro?s seven points in the first quarter, and Callie Serene scored all five points for HHS in the second quarter.
Moundridge, meanwhile, missed all 15 of its field-goal attempts, thanks in large part to Hillsboro?s harassing defense.
?The girls did a fantastic job of playing defense,? coach Nathan Hiebert said. ?You could see in Moundridge?s shots that they were rushing everything because they knew someone was going to be on them quickly.
?I was proud because there were some possessions early on where we were playing defense for up to a minute?and playing hard,? he added. ?We pride ourselves on being in good condition, and that helped us tonight.?
After Tiffany Fisher finally scored the home team?s first field goal 22 seconds into the third quarter, the scoring pace picked up for both squads. Four points by both Tena Loewen and Addie Lackey and a three-point play by Danae Bina helped HHS to a 23-10 lead after three quarters.
Hillsboro led by as much as 19 points when Courtney Weber drained a three-pointer with 2:04 left in the game, but the Wildcats scored the final seven points to cut the final margin to 12.
Lackey led Hillsboro with 10 points as the Trojans shot just under 50 percent (15-31) from the field. Moundridge finished with 19 percent success (7-36).
?We?re just trying to find a rhythm right now,? Hiebert said. ?We spend a lot of time on defense.?
With the win, Hillsboro improved to 3-0 for the season while Moundridge dropped to 1-2 for the tournament and 2-2 overall.
GARDEN PLAIN?Hillsboro overcame a 12-point deficit in the second half, then barely escaped with a 43-42 win on Thursday.
Senior Callie Serene stepped up to score all seven of her points in the final four minutes of the game to help the Trojans to their Houdini-style victory.
After an easy game against Lyons on Tuesday, the Trojans found themselves in a fight with a quick and physical flock of Owls. HHS jumped to an early 7-2 lead, but Garden Plain grabbed its first lead at 8-7, then nudged the margin to 11-7 at the first break and 24-17 at by halftime.
A 7-2 start to the third quater gave the Owls their largest lead at 12 points with 5:31 left in the third period. But switching to full-court pressure, the Trojans began to change the momentum. An 8-2 run in the final 5:14 pulled HHS to within 33-29 by the end of the period.
After Garden Plain scored to start the final quarter, Stephanie Sanders hit a three-pointer, Danae Bina add a basket in the paint and Serene stepped up with the first of two threes to give the Trojans their first lead since the early minutes, 37-35.
Krista Reimer scored in the paint about 30 seconds later for a 39-35 advantage.
But then things went weird. In position to secure the win, the Trojans made only one free throw in six attempts over the last 2:26?two of the misses were on the front end of a one-and-one.
That enabled Garden Plain to regain the lead, but Serene?s three-pointer at the 1:20 mark put Hillsboro back on top, 42-41.
The Owls turned the ball over on their next two possessions; on the third one, coach Sarah McCormick called a timeout a mere moment before one of her players launched a shot that hit nothing but net and would have put the Owls back on top.
HHS still led and, after a change of possession, Serene was fouled on an inbounds pass. She made one of two free throws for a 43-41 lead with six seconds left.
Noelle Dooley of Garden Plain was then fouled at the other end with 0.4 seconds left. Shooting the double-bonus, Dooley swished the first free throw, but then missed the one that would have tied the game. Tena Loewen hauled down the rebound to preserve the one-point win.
Loewen was the only Trojan to break double-digits with the minimum 10. Hillsboro shot 46 percent (17-37) from the field while Garden Plain made nearly 59 percent (17-29).
The difference in the game was Hillsboro forcing 16 Owl turnovers in the second half compared to eight in the first half.
?I think we got them worn out a little bit, then they were a little more shaky on attacking and passing?that helped,? coach Nathan Hiebert said of his team?s comeback. ?Offensively, we changed things to get more movement. We changed it so we?d get more cutters to the basket, and then we had better shots from the outside.
?I was really proud how they didn?t quit,? he added. ?They kept on playing and kept on playing.
As for his team?s late lapse at the line, Hiebert said, ?We?ve got to be able to finish games. We put ourselves in a good situation as the game was winding down, being in the bonus and getting the shots. We just didn?t take advantage of that.?
LYONS?It took a quarter to find their stride, but the Trojans waltzed to an impressive 69-29 victory over Lyons in the team?s tournament and season debut.
HHS led 11-3 at the first break despite 5-for-21 shooting from the field. But the team?s defense more than made up for the early shooting jitters, forcing 11 turnovers.
?It?s the first game and everyone?s excited,? coach Nathan Hiebert said about the misfires. ?There?s a lot of girls that want to play. They want to make something happen quickly instead of executing the offense and allowing things to come to them a little bit more.?
For the rest of the game, the Trojans shot about 65 percent from the floor, building a 31-14 lead by halftime and a 54-22 margin after three quarters. The fourth quarter ended with a running clock.
Nine Trojans scored, with Tena Loewen leading the way with 20. Addie Lackey added 14 and Stephanie Sanders 10 as the Trojans finished the game shooting 43 percent (28-for-65) from the field.
?Tena did a great job of attacking inside,? Hiebert said. ?When we?re patient we can get a lot of great shots by different people.?
The Trojans? defense limited the Lions to 37 percent shooting on 33 fewer shots (12-32). Not coincidently, the Trojan defense forced 33 turnovers, while the offense committed only 12.
?They lost a lot of their ballhandlers from last year,? Hiebert said. ?We wanted to be sure to pressure them a lot. (Lyons) got a little frustrated.?
Coming?Hillsboro (3-0) was scheduled to play Tuesday at Smoky Valley (1-1), then will hit the road again Friday to take on Sterling (3-0). The Trojans will end their pre-holiday schedule Dec. 20 with their home first game of the season, taking on Marion.
For same-night coverage of all these games, go to hillsboro?freepress.com.